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Bully Pulpit: High Water Pants Make You a Target

Some clouds are over the Garden Community after a student admitted to making a bomb threat because police say he was being bullied. Patch Columnist Mike Vickery shares his experience of being bullied back in the 1970s.

As far as PR goes, this has not been Greendale’s best week.  Bomb scares and bullying are generally not the reasons you want to show up on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Yet, here we are. Remember those simpler times when really tall sunflowers got us in the news?

This turn of events is not a bad thing. Turning the lights on a problem is always positive action.  The illumination reveals blemishes best exposed – and then duly dealt with. 

For this moment, the heck with our ‘Garden of Eden Community’ reputation.  We have troubles, right here in Greendale.  “Trouble” – that starts with ‘T’ which rhymes with ‘B’ and that stands for bullying.  In hind sight, the bomb scare, while wrong, is a symptom of the larger problem. We are Greendale and we will deal with this. 

Let’s roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work.  There is work to be done.  There always is – we are a work in progress.

No one, of course, condones The Bully.  As behaviors go, bullying is down there with racism and a poor hygiene regimen.  It is mean and it stinks. Bullying is sharp ignorance with a rusty edge.

Bullying happens.  It can pop up anywhere.  Think back on your own life and you may recall being the ‘target’ – or the ‘gun’.  If you have a moment, share a bullying story at the bottom of this column.  It can be incredibly comforting for ‘targets’ to know they are not alone.  It can be a catharsis for ‘guns’ to say “I goofed up and I am sorry”.

I got a story.

Rewind back to the early 70’s and see a polyester-clad 14 year-old - who obviously missed the memo on the evils of high water pants - roaming the halls of Bay Port High School.  That clueless freshman is me.  I am about to get hit in the back of the head with an incredibly thick Algebra book.  Hit the pause button…

Getting hit with an Algebra book is not the worse form of bullying.  There are far more damaging, nuanced and long-term forms of bullying that do deeper psychological damage.  That said, I do use this incident to explain my irrational fear of math and my love of paperbacks.  Hit the play button.

“Thunk!”.  Or was it “Bam!”? I do not really remember. I do recall The Bully calling me some names (“Dork” springs to mind and frankly fit) and then I found myself sprawled across the hallway floor, wishing student backpacks had been invented – which would of prevented all my scholarly possessions from wildly scattering for what seemed like a mile of corridor. 

Dazed and surprised, I did figure out that - along with the one on the importance of pant length - I missed the memo on Freshman Hazing.  The 1970s could have really used Twitter.

There was some laughter at my expense.  There was some gathering of my notebooks and my once proud Bic pen collection. My head was all Twilight Zone.   I tried very hard not to cry as well as fight back the sweaty nausea I was feeling.  No one could look less cool as I did, struggling to find an exit and get some air.  But I did – and got a detention for leaving the building during class time.  Not my best day.

But not my worst day either.  Any day that I was insensitive or less than helpful to any victim would be a worse day.  I have had those too and am less than proud about that.

How about you?  Got any stories you care to share?  Go ahead – that is why “Comment” space was invented. Unload.

We always have each other.  Sometimes bad, but most often great, it is all about community. We will get through this and we will get better.

Click here to read the most recent update about the Greendale High School student who wrote a bomb threat in the boy bathroom because police say Olson was bullied.

Kristine October 04, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I am a 1985 graduate of Greendale High School and have 2 children who graduated from Greendale and a third still at the high school. I was bullied my junior year because I began dating a boy who broke up with someone else to date me. The x girlfriend had a friend who bullied me daily by pushing me into lockers, calling me names and throwing things at me in the girls locker room during gym class. This girl was a senior and I was never so happy when she graduated. I never forget this time in my life, it stays with you forever. I told my kids the story and they tell me often about the bullying they still see. It isn't just at Greendale of course, it is everywhere, and sad because kids can be so cruel. I am 45 now and still remember how it felt like it was yesterday.
Greendale Citizen October 05, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Let's be somewhat realistic here. We are asking our teachers to make sure that our children are educated and able to pass the WKCE tests with flying colors, and now we also want them monitoring all the behavior that goes on amongst teenagers? This needs to start at home. Talk with your children. I knew my child was being bullied, I did something about it WITH the Greendale school in question that she attended. There's a bullying program in place. Our children are taught what to do if they are being bullied, many districts have bully programs in place. Come on, not all teenagers at the high school are bullies. I question why this boy's own parents didn't know he was being harassed for so long apparently and did nothing about it. HE'S YOUR CHILD! DO YOU KNOW HIM? DO YOU KNOW WHEN HE'S HURTING? WHEN PEOPLE ARE PICKING ON HIM? DID YOU KNOW THAT HE WAS VOTED TO THE PROM COURT AND DIDN'T WANT TO BE? That should have been a huge clue.
Cheryl Sanders October 05, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Kristine - you are right. I graduated a year after you from a different school, but my bullying experience is just as clear as yours all these years later. There was a girl one year older than I who was tough and mean. She found out I had called her the 'B' word -not to her face of course - and she lived up to that reputation by making my life miserable. She would follow me while I walked with my friends through the halls, stepping on the back of my shoes giving me 'flat tires' that I didn't dare to stop and fix b/c she would be breathing down my neck with threats and taunts. This went on for a long time b/c I was too scared to stand up to her or tell anyone. After half the school year I guess she got bored and found someone else to pick on. Whenever I hear of kids being bullied, my mind goes right back to that time in my own life. Looking back I wish I had told someone or a teacher would have noticed and reached out to help, but I felt too scared and helpless to fix the situation on my own. People who never been bullied just don't get it.
Paul Sawyer October 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Greendale Citizen, it isn't that easy. Yes, parents should be involved. Mine were back when I was being bullied at HIghland View, 1990-1993. They approached my teachers and the administration, and things only got worse when a climate of retribution set in. "Boys will be boys" was the reply of the principal, and "just ignore them" was the word of the guidance counselor. Well, the boys are hard to ignore when they are literally pinning you to the ground and beating you, or throwing chairs at you in the classroom. What has to happen next is something real at the school level, from two angles. First, the administration has to revamp how they handle and detect bullies as things are far more subtle now. Less physical like in my day, more cyber bullying. They need to have a way to address it when it is brought to their attention that doesn't amount to "warnings" and "slaps on the wrist". Real consequences, but also counseling and contact/inverention with the parents to see where this all began. But primarily, and I cannot stress this enough for ALL GREENDALE STUDENTS... SAY SOMETHING. Dr. Tharp, get a PR program going. A campaign to end the silence. An anonymous text line for students to use to let the school know there is a kid who needs help. Whatever it is, you have to emphasize that if you aren't the person who is going to say something, who will? If you wait, it may be too late. It isn't "tattling" or "snitching". It is being a good human being, for crying out loud.
Adela October 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Unfortunately bullying happens everywhere and I grew up from a different country. Sad to know too that the bullies/bullied do more harm/damage due to technology and access to weapons. I am glad that finally Greendale finally stepped up even though it is exposing the supposedly " friendly community" in the limelight. I do want to let everyone know that where there are kids/school there will be incidents like this ( serious or not ). What I expect from GREENDALE and the COMMUNITY is to be a ROLE MODEL to others and to show that we are a wonderful community and to find solutions for this issue. It definitely starts at home and for parents to be more diligent and be open if this things happen and not to hush about it " just because .... and for the school to well-inform the parents since we want to TRUST the district ( leaving our kids for hours in their care - teach them hopefully not just academics. My daughter was teased in GMS( didn't tell me till she started having physical issues and when I told the teacher about it- that was when I knew it was going on and that my kid almost went to the office because of her choice in reacting to the bully ( it did teach the bully not to pick on her again ). I reinforced to the teachers that I really do not mind frequent emails and calls and I was thankful. I was bullied back in the 70's in 3rd Gr and glad that my parents kept on teaching us about self esteem - it hurt me but I did not want that to control my life nor for my kids.
Adela October 05, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I agree with your idea Paul. It is difficult to speak up but if there is a hotline # maybe students can inform what's going on sooner before bad things happen. I thing this goal ( anti bullying ) is as important as budgets and other projects that Greendale should add in their planning. As a taxpayer , I do not mind.
Gene October 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM
From knowing this family I can say with certainty, the parents did not know about the prom and homecoming events until after the fact. This child was asked everyday how school was going, everthing is is fine was the usual response. When an event was brought up it was dealt with by phone calls to the other parents and school staff. Some parents dont like to hear about their child being called out. They know their kid as having high self confidance which is fine except when they get it by putting other kids down. Parent teacher conferances had no mention of any of the tormenting this boy went through for years. The parents should have dug alot deeper into this childs high school experience obviously, however that does not excuse the faculty from enforcing the school policies and obeying the state laws regarding bullying. No we can not expect school staff to know of every sigle incident however the incidents they did know of werent even reported to staff or the parents as required by law. The young man is getting is punishment for violating the law yet violations by staff are not even being looked into by anybody. The young man is cooperating with the powers that be to share his story and at least try to help this not happen to some one else. While the parents are getting him the help he needs and seeking the best educational oppurtunity possible given the situation.
Steve Woodman October 06, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I am very concerned about Greendale School District. Victoria McCormick and Tom Slota are up for election in April. We need to vote them off. I hope they run so we can do so rather than letting them just stay silent now.
Kaye October 08, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Seriously, The Board members probably didn't know. The teachers and counselors I am sure did. Go after them. Who's paying for all of the expense of this?

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